City Public Works Director admits leaf pick up program is a subsidy for landscape contractors

7 Dec

On Thursday, Nov. 29, my husband and I were out in South Chico, shopping locally!  As the weatherman had predicted at least a week in advance, it had been dumping rain all day.

We get whopping storms here – everything from sudden and quickly over gully washers to three day dumpers. I’ll never forget a week of rain, in June of one year, when we watched a giant tree in our neighbor’s yard lean slowly over for days and finally come to rest on the roof of our garage.

And here’s another thing – a few months of Summer, and people seem to forget all about rain. 

For example, our city staff routinely gets caught with their pants down, as if they didn’t watch the news or what? I guess our public works director was on another two weeks paid vacation in Italy? All the expensive street sweeping and drain cleaning equipment the city has accumulated ($$$] and they let streets flood every year. On Thursday I couldn’t believe what I saw – busy streets with a foot or more of water, cars skidding and colliding, roads closing down, right at 2 – 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

It took us an hour and a half to get from our house in midtown to Home Depot and back.

I know, there are a lot more people in town these days. But the problem wasn’t the traffic. It was the leaf pick up program. Not only does the city NOT keep the streets swept of street tree debris, they allow commercial landscapers to dump leaves and debris from their customer’s yards at various “dump sites” around town.

When I reported seeing landscapers dumping piles of tree debris on Mariposa Avenue one afternoon,  I reported it to public works director Erik Gustafson.  According to the city website, only leaves from street trees are supposed to be piled in the street. It specifically states, no commercial landscapers. There is supposed to be a foot clearance for the gutters and drains. No branches or grass cuttings.

What I saw was a sprawling pile of mess, leaves that didn’t match street trees, shrubbery, and large branches, sprawled not only over the gutter but across the sidewalk. Loose leaves covered the street, making a slippery surface.

Gustafson replied,  “I understand the issue and what appears to be a subsidy for landscape contractors [his suggestion, not mine]…the intent of allowing landscapers to dump leaf material at several designated locations was to limit the amount of material in other areas with narrow streets. Prior to the commercial sites, there were many ares around the city where vehicles could barely pass due to the amount of leaf pile build-up.”

So, the city’s answer to illegal dumping by contractors is to give them their own free dump sites, out on the public street? I watched a landscaper do the same thing on Vallombrosa two days ago, a whole trailer full of yard waste from a gated subdivision.

Of course Gustafson knows the law. “Our preference is to have landscape contractors take their material directly to the compost facility and not dump in the street at all…”  Your preference? It’s the law, Mr. Six Figure Salary!

Don’t you just want to put your foot in a public worker’s package sometimes?

Oh but he’s working on it. “In fact, we’ve started to eliminate the commercials [sic]  dump sites and are down to five from ten.””

The leaf pick up program needs to end. Instead, they should have public works crews around town, cleaning gutters and drains days ahead of every storm.

Hey Erik, ever had your soft little hands on the business end of a rake or shovel? Don’t want to mess up your expensive slacks or those nice Italian shoes? We have to many stuffed suits Downtown.

As my husband and I wound our way by one wreck after another, we watched city workers, including the big drain sucker truck ($$$)  moving in to clear accumulated leaf piles out of the gutter in front of the entrance to Cal Park, leaves that had been dumped there by commercial landscape crews. We watch them all the time, blowing leaves out of business parks, as well as private residences, into the street, ignoring the rules about leaving a foot of clearance for water drainage, piling them out into the street, where they blow all over the place waiting for infrequent sweepers from the city. Thursday I  couldn’t help noticing  piles of leaves flopped right on top of drains, on streets all over my neighborhood.

Since I contacted Gustafson the leaf pickup press release on the city website has been changed to acknowledge the commercial dump sites. The website also says streets will only be swept every two weeks.

The leaf pick up subsidy needs to end.

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2 Responses to “City Public Works Director admits leaf pick up program is a subsidy for landscape contractors”

  1. Jim December 7, 2018 at 1:19 pm #

    Before we had leaf pickup, people would burn the leaves in the street. So pickup is preferable. However competency is never used to describe city management. I can’t think of a single thing they get right.

    • Juanita Sumner December 7, 2018 at 2:46 pm #

      Oh yeah, I remember those days!

      But now we have mandated yard waste bins, adding almost $6 to your trash bill – they should be telling people to put their leaves in those!

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